Mandela Day took off in style at a rural Free State primary school when the Mandela Digital Learning Project’s online learning platform was launched after four years of development and six months of testing.

The platform offers a full digital library with access to information that includes over 67-million educational videos on almost every conceivable subject via YouTube; more than
2 400 educational documentary films via CuriosityStream, an American on-demand documentary streaming service; and educational classes from Grade R to university level.

All the information is available for free, and will also support teachers with class activities aligned to the South African curriculum and topics of local relevance via interactive whiteboard software.

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(Image: Robert Coutts)

Accounting software company Sage’s philanthropic arm, the Sage Foundation, and the joberg2C cycle race sponsored this first deployment of the digital learning platform at the Thuto Ke Tsela Primary School in Frankfort in the north-eastern Free State.

The launch of this platform on Mandela Day, 18 July 2019, marks an evolutionary step in the Nelson Mandela School Library project and a revolution in the ability to give children access to quality education that’s characteristic of the developed world, irrespective of their circumstances and location. This is the gift of technology, used appropriately.

Since 2011 the Nelson Mandela School Library project has refurbished shipping containers, converting them into libraries for disadvantaged schools across South Africa.

Principal Mrs ND Nhlapo and information technology teacher Ben Moorosi looked on as pupils at the school used their new “Mandela smartphones” to gain access to their individual profiles. Their school progress will be logged via these profiles.

The Sage Foundation has chosen to be an extended partner and fund a second school in KwaZulu-Natal, where the system will be launched in August.

“This is indeed a watershed in terms of access to equal-opportunity education,” said Robert Coutts, CEO of the Mandela Education Programme in South Africa. “Hopefully 12 years from now we will get our first school-leaver starting at Harvard University – and all for free. This is the extent of the system.”

The Mandela Education Programme is an initiative of the Long Walk to Freedom brand in partnership with the Department of Basic Education, the Soul City Institute for Social Justice’s Soul Buddyz programme and Rotary International, and is run by non-profit organisation Participate for Good.